For most triathletes, the swim is basically a necessity so that we can get to bike and run. It is also an activity that a number of us did not grow up doing, much less competitively. Swimming is one of those sports that is also generally a LOT harder to pick up as an adult.
I have been known to say that swimming is more like golf than any other sport. What I mean by this is that swimming is a skill sport. You can swim a million miles with bad form, but the truth is you would have been better off swimming just one quarter of that working on good form. Trust me, I did the former for most of my career.
I would say that most dedicated triathletes likely swim 3x per week and probably have a weekly max volume of roughly 12k, then show up at an IRONMAN and expect to "race" 1/3 of their weekly swim volume in one go and in a wetsuit that they have likely put on once in the last 4 months. At this point you may be thinking....."where the hell is he going with this?"
In February I raced Ultraman Florida, which included a 6.2 mile or 10k swim. I would be lying if I said I was well prepared for the swim section of the race because I wasn't! That said, what I had done is a LOT of swimming in my wetsuit. I did at least 1 swim per week of 8K in the wetsuit that was very race specific. Boring, but specific. I would do:
8 x 1,000 descending 1 - 4 and 5 - 8
16 x 500 where I would build the first 6 and try to hold that effort for the next 10
5 x (500 broken as 25 fast 25 easy, 50 fast 50 easy, 75 fast 75 easy, 100 fast 100 easy and then straight into a 1,000 steady)
All of these sets were done in a wetsuit and I can say when I had to swim 10k in the wetsuit it felt amazing!!
I would HIGHLY recommend for anyone who is racing a 70.3 or longer and they are 90% sure it is going to be a wetsuit swim, to do at least one very race specific swim per week in their wetsuit. Come race day, you will feel comfortable and have great confidence on the effort you can hold in the wetsuit for the entire duration of the race. You are looking for a lower stroke count and smooth long strokes in the wetsuit, as you will get a much better glide. This will translate well into open water swimming.
To date my most comfortable wetsuit has been the ZONE3 Vanquish wetsuit
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Curious about Ultraman? Check out this short overview from Ultraman Florida and get in touch to with your questions!